"You think man can destroy
the planet? What intoxicating vanity. Let me tell you about our planet.
Earth is four-and-a-half-billion-years-old. There's been life on it
for nearly that long, 3.8 billion years. Bacteria first; later the first
multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea, on
Then finally the great sweeping ages
of animals, the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals, each
one enduring millions on millions of years, great dynasties of creatures
rising, flourishing, dying away -- all this against a background of
continuous and violent upheaval. Mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away,
cometary impacts, volcano eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole
continents moving, an endless, constant, violent change, colliding,
buckling to make mountains over millions of years.
Earth has survived everything in its
time. It will certainly survive us. If all the nuclear weapons in the
world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and
the earth was sizzling hot for a hundred thousand years, life would
survive, somewhere: under the soil, frozen in Arctic ice. Sooner or
later, when the planet was no longer inhospitable, life would spread
again. The evolutionary process would begin again. It might take a few
billion years for life to regain its present variety.
Of course, it would be very different
from what it is now, but the earth would survive our folly, only we
would not. If the ozone layer gets thinner, ultraviolet radiation sears
the earth, so what? Ultraviolet radiation is good for life. It's powerful
energy. It promotes mutation, change. Many forms of life will thrive
with more UV radiation. Many others will die out. Do you think this
is the first time that's happened? Think about oxygen. Necessary for
life now, but oxygen is actually a metabolic poison, a corrosive glass,
When oxygen was first produced as a
waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it
created a crisis for all other life on earth. Those plants were polluting
the environment, exhaling a lethal gas. Earth eventually had an atmosphere
incompatible with life. Nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself.
In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time.
A hundred years ago we didn't have cars,
airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but
to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing.
This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can't imagine
its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven't got the humility to try.
We've been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we're gone tomorrow,
the earth will not miss us."